PhD defence: Between Blame and Care. A sociological study of the targeting of maternal obesity in the prevention of childhood obesity

PhD defence

Drude Skov Lauridsen


Similar to pregnant women who are smoking or drinking alcohol, women with a high BMI (at or above 30) are considered a risk group in prenatal care. As part of the public health policies to end what has been labelled the “obesity epidemic”, women with a high BMI are targeted in prenatal care interventions. These women are not only considered “at risk” of pregnancy complications but also a risk factor for the future overweight and health of the foetus. This PhD thesis investigates the targeting of mothers categorised as obese in selective interventions designed to prevent and monitor childhood obesity. Based on their weight, Danish pregnant women with a BMI at or above 30 where selected to participate in a health invention where they were advised by medical experts to eat a healthy diet, exercise and limit their gestational weight gain. The thesis consists of three empirical papers that investigate how the targeting is experienced from the point of view of the Danish mothers and fathers. Through interviews with mothers and joint interviews with parents, the thesis traces how mothers have to manage stigma, manoeuvre expert advice to meet their own needs, as well as negotiate responsibility with the fathers. Overall the thesis contributes with new knowledge relevant to researchers, policy makers, practitioners and parents about what it means to be targeted as a ”risky mom” and what the unintended consequences of such selective intervention based on weight can have for the women.


Lotte Holm, Professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Assessment Committee

Chair:  Jesper Lassen, Professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Emma Rich, Professor, University of Bath

Tine Tjørnhøj-Thomsen, Professor, University of Southern Denmark

If you are interested in a full copy of the thesis, please contact the PhD student or the supervisor.